Private Obedience Gets God’s Eye :: by Sean Gooding

Matthew chapter 6: 16-21 (continued)

“Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they  have their reward.  But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you  do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Last time we began our talk about living out your Christian walk or life. Jesus taught that we are to live our lives simply to glorify God and honor Him.  We were not to seek the accolades of men and we were not to do our “good deeds” for others to see or simply for others to see. We live out our Christianity in service to God and Man. God alone needs to know what we are doing.

When we got to the end of our previous lesson, we touched on the subject of forgiveness. How are you doing with that? This is one of, if not the most important trait of a Christian. I can hear you talking to yourself and saying that “LOVE” is the most important trait of a Christian.

Forgiveness is the fruit of love. If you love someone you will forgive them. God loves the world so He is ready and willing to forgive. God loves us, His children, so He forgives our sins. In Psalm 19:12-13 we find three categories of sins, errors, a simply lapse in judgment, there was no intent to behave sinfully; it was a spur of the moment action.

Then there is sin that is sin as far as God is concerned called secret faults, but we let them slip from our conscience as we either forget to confess them or don’t know we need to confess them.  Then there is presumptuous sin, or premeditated sins. These are the sins that we know are sins and do them anyway. God forgives all of our sins when we ask and we are told by Jesus that forgiveness is a part of the Christian life. In Luke 17:3-4 we see this from the Lord:

“Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”

Forgiveness and love go hand in hand, if you truly love someone you will forgive them.  If you don’t you will not.  This is how resentment and division comes into churches; it comes from a lack of forgiveness. Once a lack of forgiveness takes root it leads to a lack of love and them resentment and division. We are called to forgive because we are forgiven. God forgives us so much that we cannot ever justify not forgiving those that wrong us.

Today we will continue our conversation about living out our Christian life solely for the glory of God and not seeking any accolades for ourselves.  This is very important for us to learn because the human spirit is easily deceived and led astray.

One can start out truly serving God, giving Him everything and a few well-meaning people will drop some compliments and the next thing you know we do what we do to get their attention and not solely to please God. This is idolatry. We crave that “good feeling inside” or we crave that “pat on the back.”

Pastors can fall into this trap very easily, we can begin to water down God’s messages to please the people in the pews and not preach the truth to please God.  Today we will look at fasting and storing treasure on earth.

Fast without People Knowing That You’re Fasting, Verses 16-18

There are many reasons to fast. One is to seek God’s answer about a certain matter. The other is the discipline of depraving oneself of food or an activity for the sake of bringing one’s body under control. Husbands and wives can fast for sexual activities (1 Corinthians 7: 1-7) and set the time aside for prayer. Jesus fasted for 40 days and nights as we see in Matthew 4: 1-11.

There is a place for public fasting; we see that in the book of Jonah.  The entire city of Nineveh fasted seeking God’s forgiveness and hoping that their outward show of humility and sorrow would stave off the wrath of God that was coming.  In this case everyone knew that the other was fasting but there was no desire for man’s approval, this was all done to God.

In like manner a church can embark upon fasting as a group for a period of time when seeking an answer from God about a certain question or need.  Maybe they need a new Pastor or a new facility or more income.  Maybe they need protection from their enemies all this is good in the area of corporate fasting.

But then we come to issue of private fasting.  One needs an answer from God about a private manner or maybe you simply fast as an act of humility before God.  Maybe it is an act of obedience to God in the area of a certain thing; you fast from a certain food or a certain activity for the purpose of sacrifice before the Lord.  In the case we are examining in Matthew 6, it is fasting from food.

It would seem from Jesus’ explanation that it was common for the religious leaders of sects to fast.  But they would make sure that everyone knew that there were fasting by disfiguring their faces.  The Amplified Bible uses the terms “gloomy, sour and dreary’ as words for “disfigure.” The Complete Jewish Bible uses the word “miserable.”

The intent of this is to show that the sole purpose for fasting was to impress men with their piety and not seek God’s help or favor.  They did not need anything from God; they were not to bring their bodies into discipline as an act of humility before God.  The acknowledgement from men was their god and that is what they worshipped and that is all they got.  God in Heaven did not pay them any attention.

In contrast when we have a private matter between us and God for which we are seeking guidance or if we are in the process of bodily discipline for the purpose of honoring God we should do so secretly. Now obviously if I am fasting my wife and children may know since I am not eating at home.

But outside of that I am to make sure that the fasting is done between me and God. I am not to look sour and miserable, when hunger hits I am not to look down in the mouth. Only God and my family should know that I am fasting. This kind of sacrifice gets God’s attention and He will hear you and answer you.

Where Are Your Treasures? Verses 19-21

Money! It is a ruthless master and an unforgiving god. The Bible does not have a lot of good things to say about money. We need money, we need a place to live, a car to drive and there is nothing wrong with taking a vacation to a nice destination and enjoying the good times with your family.

I have known many Christians who are millionaires, I am sure that there are also some billionaires amongst our brothers and sister. The owners of Chic-Fil-A and Hobby Lobby in the USA are multi-millionaires no doubt. Solomon had more money than they and since no one was ever as rich as Solomon, he had more money that the men we see on TV. He had more money than Bill Gates and Warren Buffet.

The issue is not how much treasure you have it is how much of you does your treasure have? It  is easy for us to fall into the trap that earth riches equal God’s blessings. This is not necessarily the truth. For many men earthly riches become their god. It keeps them away from God and His work.  Jesus encountered this in His ministry in two ways, one was overt; we find this account in Mark 10: 17-22:

“As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, ‘Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good’ No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.’

And he said to Him, ‘Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.’ Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, ‘One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.”

This young man had a lot of wealth and the thought of selling it all and giving away the proceeds, even if it meant he would have eternal life, was simply too much to bear and he walked away from Jesus. The second kind of men we find with riches being their god are more covert; we find this in John 12: 42-43:

“Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.”

These men believed that Jesus was God and that He was all He said He was yet they feared what they had to lose in position and prestige more than what God thought.  These two examples are excellent in showing us the two sides of earthly treasure; one is tangible like money, the other more intrinsic like position.

Yet they can both become idols, and thus lead to us to placing God second in our lives. This is not at all allowed. Jesus encourages us to work in such a way as to store up treasures in heaven.  These are the kind of treasures that cannot be taken from us. The Bible tells us of 5 crowns we can earn from God for various endeavors.

Many are positions to be gained and kingdoms to rule in the ages to come. God is in the eternal reward business, and these are rewards you actually take with you. Who or what is you god? If God is your God then serve Him. Let Him worry about your treasures, He is not broke.